It is a short step from learning to use a camera to hoping others like what we create. It’s a natural step. But when the next step is allowing the tastes of others to change what we create, it’s a step in a direction that leads away from art.
We are responsible for our art, and to be honest with it. Others will react as they choose – some positive, some negative. We sometimes lose sight of this: it is the high calling of art not to create consensus but to stir something. What it stirs in others is beyond our control.
But we like control.
We like the likes.
They make us feel safe.
The problem is that safety, in many ways, is toxic to art. We get addicted to it. We cling to it and venture out less and less. We risk less. We repeat what “works” and avoid what doesn’t. But if what works is what holds us back, it becomes a kind of sabotage to keep doing it.
This hunger for approval is understandable. It’s just not sustainable. Or, ultimately, desirable. Art, I’ve heard it said, should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. It should make us more human, and that means a stirring of all our emotions, so we can see them all, sift through them, experience them. If we accept that there’s a kind of responsibility to create this stirring, then it is not “likes” that should remotely concern us. It is engagement.
The most disheartening thing someone can say about my work is that it stirs nothing at all. I’ll take strong honest feelings any day over homogeny or apathy.
Not everyone will like your art. That’s not only OK, it’s good.
Don’t look to the public to be the voice that guides what you do and how you do it. It is not their job to mentor you. They don’t know you except through your art. They will pull you in a million directions, hoping you’ll make art that’s a closer reflection of who they are, what they like, what makes them comfortable. And we all creep closer and closer to sameness.
Your job is to make your art. It will find the audience it finds. God have mercy on the artist that creates for the adoration, and on us when she does.